Saturday, July 01, 2006

Big Frank

Big Frank was my stepfather. He remained in the family for 11 years until he died all alone in a boarding house. My mother didn't have much luck with men (nor they with her).
Big Frank worked in a parking lot, two doors down from the White Tower Restaurant where my mother worked. Big Frank could always be found either parking cars or sitting in the shack, a little house no bigger than 8'x 10' where you hid from the cold with an electric space heater, or used a fan for the summer, propped up against the ticket time stamp clock.
His family was strange. They were mafia wanna-bees. I had an Uncle Toughy, Uncle Nick and Aunt Margaret and Aunt Mary. Uncle Nick had a child with Aunt Margaret. Needless to say, the child was a little strange.
Big Frank's friends were kind of cool- all small time gangsters- Hotdog, PopCorn and Midge Renault, who's house I was at the day he was arrested for having a helicopter land in his backyard.
My mother married Big Frank for convenience. She twistedly decscribed their relationship as non-sexual. She seemed to be proud of this. Big Frank just seemed happy that someone liked him enough to take him in.
Big Frank always wore a baseball cap to cover his bald head. He had no teeth, but his gums were sharper than puppies' teeth. Having no more than a 6th grade education, he was a kind and gentle man- except for the one time when I was older and he threw a fork at my forehead. My head always seemed to be target for my family-having sustained a "lead injury" previously from my brother sticking a pencil in my head, but I digress.
The summers were interesting times with Big Frank. I was 7 and I would spend the day in downtown New Haven, going to movies, going bowling, shining shoes at the train station for 10 cents. I knew everyone. Everyone knew I was Mary and Frank's kid.
At 3Pm, Frank would be relieved at the parking lot and stop home to change clothes for his next job, the job I loved. He was the ticket taker at an amusement park called Savin Rock. He ran the best ride there- Laugh in the Dark.
At 3PM, Helen the Lesbian, which is what everyone called her, would come in to relieve Big Frank. She looked like a man, walked like a man, had a sharp crewcut. She was one of the most gentle women I have ever met.
We would play baseball until it was time for my next child care taker to show up-Melvin. Melvin drove the bus. I loved the bus. I loved Melvin.
Helen would walk me to the corner of Crown and College Streets, where the bus to West Haven would appear on that corner every single day with Melvin driving.
I would climb on board the bus, sit up front with Melvin and he would let me take his change belt and make change for any passengers who rode the bus.
I was in heaven. I felt safe and wanted, away from my brother and mother.

The bus would wind its way up College Steet, down Columbus Avenue, though Allingtown into West Haven, down Campbell Avenue right to Beach Street, where Frank would meet me at the bus stop and take me to Laugh in the Dark.
Laugh in the Dark was the scariest ride at Savin Rock. But I wasn't scared. I had done this ride so many times I knew it by heart. I would sit in the back car, the cars would fill up and slowly the track would move the cars through the dark and dingy tunnel
Skeletons popped out of nowhere- shrunken heads on sticks would fall from the ceiling almost touching you, maimed bodies would be thrown on the sides of the tracks, wolves would howl loudly. Maybe this is where I nutured my love of scary movies. Scary movies make me laugh- life scares me.
The best part when the ride was over was at the very end when the car stopped and the people got out. As they were exiting, a large gust of air would burst out of a pipe and make the ladies' dresses lift up and they would scream. God this was fun.
This short span of happiness only lasted 2 summers. I'm not sure why. It just stopped.
Big Frank died in July of 1966. No one was with him. He died alone.
My mother had thrown him out of the house in June. She said she just didn't want him around anymore. I visited him a couple of times. He was living in a boarding house over a rollerskating rink- The Roll-A-Round. When my mother found out I went to see him, she took the car away.
When he died, she played the grieving widow. No one believed it. It was guilt, nothing more nothing less. I was amazed she even had that emotion.

5 Comments:

Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...

Keep going, Suzy, you are on a great roll! Write, write, write, tap, tap, tap!

11:05 PM  
Anonymous ender said...

wow ... another great post.

"my love of scary movies. Scary movies make me laugh- life scares me."

yeah ... yeah, me too.

when i went with a bunch of friends to see Nightmare on Elm Street as a not-supposed-to-be-there teen, myself and another friend laughed all the way through the movie, predicting what would happen next so accurately the guy behind us asked us why we were seeing it again if we were just gonna make fun of it.

another great post ... are you working on collecting these into a book? (if not, you should seriously think about it!)

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I WANTED TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLE,BIG FRANK..I AM MIDGE RENAULTS GRANDSON AND I STARTED TO LAUGH WHEN I READ ABOUT THE HELICOPTER IN THE YARD STORY...I FELT LIKE I WAS AT SAVIN ROCK THE WAY YOU WERE DESCRIBING IT.JUST TO LET YOU KNOW THERE ARE SUPPOSE TO BE A COUPLE OF BOOKS COMING OUT IN THE NEAR FUTURE ABOUT MY GRANDFATHER SO LOOK FOR THEM AND THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Anonymous-
Thank you for the comment.

I remember Midge- I can also remember that Big Frank and his brothers loved Midge. He was like a savior to them. He was always a kind man to me- I remember sitting in his yard, playing with a bunch of puppies...

My best to you- Thanks for writing.

Suzy

6:18 AM  
Blogger eastie said...

I too remember Midge Renault, when I was growing up in East Haven, he was always kind to the kids.

7:08 PM  

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